7 News Special Report: Part 2 Of 'What Farmers Face'Posted: Updated:
Despite trying times, agriculture is an economic powerhouse in the north country. To build on that strength, Jefferson County is searching overseas. 7 News reporter Garrett Domblewski has more in part 2 of his special report "What Farmers Face." You can see it Wednesday on 7 News at 6, 10 and 11 p.m.
The economic development team for Jefferson County wants to expand on the things the county has going for it. A search in Europe and other parts of the world has begun to yield some results.
"How do you help farms grow? Create more demand for their product. We'd like to see that demand expand right here in Jefferson County," said Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator Jay Matteson.
About a year ago, Matteson and the rest of the Jefferson County Local Development Corporation team began looking for European companies that could bring jobs and economic growth to the north country.
"We're trying to create a ripple effect, it's not just a one shot deal," said Matteson.
They hired a consultant to talk to companies in 5 key industries.
"We're gonna build on things that we already have and things that make sense. There's a lot of different industries that really have no place necessarily in Jefferson County. We don't want to waste our time with those. We want to build on what we have," said Marshall Weir, director of marketing for the Jefferson County Local Development Corporation.
Among those industries are manufacturing, military, and dairy. In Jefferson County, dairy and agriculture is as big of an economic driver as Fort Drum.
On average, every dollar that a dairy farm earns is spent in the local community seven times over before it leaves.
"The economic impact of small farms is compounding. It's huge. When farmers have extra money, they spend it," said Blake Gendebien, owner of Twin Mills Farm.
"Agriculture, especially the dairy industry, has the highest multiplier effect on our local economy," said Matteson.
The search began with about 25 companies; now that's been whittled down to 2 companies - both considered to be "hot" leads.
"We have one business that we're hoping to have a pretty solid decision here in the summertime," said Weir.
That company does food processing.
Jefferson County's team has also talked about bringing in a dairy processing plant and is continuing to seek out more options.
All of this is still tentative. Typically it takes 3 to 5 years between first contact with a company to the point when they're building a plant in the community.
"This is a long process," said Weir.
But in Jefferson County, it's an important one.
"When you can take the sun, the soil, and water, grow a product, add value to it, sell it outside the community, and bring that money back, that's the best kind of economic development," said Matteson.
They also stressed that things can change but they are optimistic about the road they're on.
Other groups are also looking for ways to expand on agricultural infrastructure.
A representative from the dairy co-op Agri-Mark said the co-op is in the process of doubling the size of one of its cheese plants in the Northeast. The group believes that will also be a big help to farmers in this area.